Sunday, July 5, 2009

Live And Let Them Eat Cake

Marie Antoinette (2006) Directed By Sofia Coppola

The soundtrack was fantastic, and was used cleverly, but it wasn't enough to save the story which given the Sophia Coppola "let's just show our protagonist looking around and being isolated, and in pretty dresses", just kind of washes out, and just leaves you wanting, but not in a begging "Lost In Translation" way. There's not much historical context and important information like the age of the characters,( Antoinette is fourteen when she is first married), is left out, as is the more dramatic political later years and execution which might have redeemed the rest of the film's earlier fluff. Minimizing history and doggedly rejecting psychology, Marie Antoinette, becomes the story of a teenage girl who buys lots of stuff, and engages in the sensual decadence of the world around her.Attempting to engage modern teenage girls with a historical character is an intriguing idea, especially via pop music, however the ideas all but end here, and were just left to wander through the beautiful french palaces and estates(shot on location), with no more idea of why or what we are doing here than Antoinette herself. Which I again understand and appreciate, however just because we cant engage the environment and context, doesn't mean we should be shut off from the subject as well, instead we should be delving deeper into the characters. This does not happen and so we are left looking at a clever advertisement for an idea, rather than the idea itself.What was tragic, in this women's life story, we know, is that she dies later, but does the audience?I watched this with someone who had never heard of Marie Antoinette, and at the end, they asked me who she was.We both liked the music ("Ceremony"by New Order, is one my favorite songs), the cinematography(it is beautiful to look at), but neither one of us could say what it was about.Being a teenage princess is hard, sure, when they take her dog away at the beginning, for instance.But the reason she is remembered at all, is because of "let them eat cake",, and her execution.Her place in history is as a symbol of the ignorance of the French aristocracy, and as victim of its vengeance.The films makes a case that she was in over her head, which was fair, she was engaged at 12 married at 15.Her life was isolated, and lonely but also decadent and materialistic, and after a point she does enjoy it, I didn't feel any utter desperation after she gives birth.The execution might have elevated it to genuine tragedy, because we would see a cost, to her having to assume the role, and to her eventually trying to enjoy it.We could have seen her as a full person, a bit older, having to be in disguise, hunted, afraid, angry, instead it's like they just move away to another palace.The Cannes audience boo allot of things, this didn't deserve that, but she's kind of France's Benedict Arnold, and Coppola handles her with kid gloves.And towards the end, when she wasn't a teenager, she did become involved with politics, and had some real power and influence.Maybe if Coppola had broken them into two films like Che, this would have worked as Part1. Direction, cinematography, and performances were all fine, and I did enjoy looking at this movie.I just wish the richness of the character(who had a fascinating life) could have been explored more fully...or at all.

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